A scene familiar in front of Bengal’s factory gates played out on the Calcutta University campus on Tuesday as two Trinamul trade union groups exchanged blows and hurled allegations at each other.
The corridor in front of the vice-chancellor’s office at the hallowed Darbhanga building was turned into a scuffle-field, as if to mock Mamata Banerjee’s promises to rid education of politics.
Trinamul MLA Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay accused a party colleague owing loyalty to MP Mukul Roy of assaulting him and blamed police for inaction. “A Trinamuli (Trinamul activist), Manmatha Ranjan Biswas (a CU clerk), who was leading a group of goons, tried to pull me by my collar and then he pushed me but the police looked the other way,” Chattopadhyay said, outside the VC’s office, about an hour after the scuffle.
Scores of university employees stopped their work and stood by to see what one of them called a “tamasha”.
“I have apprised education minister Bratya Basu of the incident. Basu asked me to intimate vice-chancellor Suranjan Das,” Chattopadhyay went on, addressing his supporters outside the VC’s chamber.
Das, who was in his room during the fight, later promised “steps against those responsible for the violence”.
Some would wonder whether militant trade unionism had changed its venue in the absence of industries in the state. Academic institutions in Calcutta have been rocked by disruptive student agitations in the past but a trade union clash — and that too among its own members — is possibly a first.
The CU Trinamul Employees Association, owing allegiance to Chattopadhyay, started a demonstration in front of the VC’s office at 10.30am demanding more representation in the various bodies of CU. They hollered slogans over the microphone on the first floor and the sound boxes on the ground floor ensured that the classes, on the College Street campus, were not spared.
Around 2.45pm, Chattopadhyay walked in. At 3pm Biswas charged towards Chattopadhyay and wanted him thrown out of the place.
“Our samiti was formed in March 2012 in the presence of Mukul Roy and there cannot be any other employees’ organisation at the college or university level. How could Sobhanda conduct a meeting inside the university?” said Biswas.
In a police complaint, Chattopadhyay accused him of wrongful confinement and causing hurt.